While virtual reality headsets are perhaps most commonly used for gaming, there is so much more that can be done in VR and we ask the important question, is it possible to work in VR? With the best VR headsets, VR has a lot to offer. There are interactive VR experiences, live events, mindfulness exercises, and even VR fitness apps, but what about doing real work in VR? While VR can add new dimensions to your office, it also brings a sense of normalcy to those still unable to return to their workplace – making users feel as if their colleagues are sitting next to them at the desk.
It can also give new potential to your workflows, whether through a creative process like hand drawing, video conferencing with an avatar, or just bringing the content you’re working on to the forefront. Whatever your reason for working in virtual reality, the good news is that it’s very possible, even at this nascent stage of the technology’s life cycle. Sure, you’ll find the odd quirk, but you might be surprised how well everything works for the most part.
As we mentioned above, working in virtual reality has its advantages. First, it can ironically make you feel a little less isolated, especially when you’re working with a team that also has headsets it’s a strange feeling to turn around and see colleagues in a virtual office, especially if, like this writer, you don’t have access to one for more than two years. Then there are the more obvious benefits like more focus on your current project or adding a whole new perspective to a project.
It is likely to be transformative for architects and CAD engineers who will be able to easily manipulate objects or even enter virtual buildings before they are built. However, it’s an experience you have to get used to. A screen with your employer’s Slack channel floating in front of your face is distracting at first, as is moving around without seeing your surroundings. It won’t be for everyone, but the potential is there.
When we were working in VR with Meta Quest 2 (formerly Oculus Quest 2), we wanted to experience as much as possible with the headset – including the apps we use every day. The Quest 2 offers PC connectivity (wired or wireless) which meant it was able to replicate our PC desktop. In fact, it was able to replicate almost everything – our app shortcuts, our menus, and even our wallpaper.
Everything is just… there, detached from the screen and dangling a foot from your face. There are other options, of course, meaning you can work from a spaceship or a cozy cafe, but doing so will map the ends of the room in a way that feels like a waste of computing power given that Quest 2 is by no means a performance powerhouse .
We also kept the connection wired to avoid battery- or Wi-Fi-related connection drops, and headtracking worked smoothly enough without causing any sickness—at least once we acclimated within an hour or two. While all of your “flat” meeting apps will work in VR when mirroring your desktop, we wanted to push some alternatives and make two stand out above the rest.
There are several options, each with different ways to show off your virtual avatar. For example, Immersed (opens in new tab) allows users to work in the same “room” and communicate with each other while collaborating on tasks. It allows any user to create their own monitor from scratch and offers some cool features like remote whiteboard and screen sharing for tasks that require teams. It also supports a lot of applications, including the Adobe suite for creative projects.
Surprisingly, we found several situations where we worked better in VR than in a regular office setup. Enclosing yourself in a virtual cocoon does wonders for your productivity by removing all distractions from your home or office. The ability to type by touch is key though, as you’ll struggle to type anything close to a reasonable speed with the VR controllers and virtual keyboard. You should probably save your VR work escapades for your work-from-home days, though, because we imagine you’ll be in for quite a bit of mockery in the office if you show up, say good morning, and then plug into The Matrix.